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Parents still baffled by car seat laws

Nine in 10 (88%) parents still confused about backless booster seats, one year after new rules announced

Posted on 05 Mar 2018

New child car seat calculator launched to help parents find the right seat for their kids, as one in four (26%) think the rules are still unclear.
Almost one in five (18%) parents of children younger than 12 either NEVER or RARELY use a car seat.
Two in five (42%) parents who have had an accident with their child in the car admit they were either not in a car seat or wearing a seatbelt at the time.
More than 4,600(2) child seat belt offences were recorded in 2016 and 2017.
Parents have been fined £161 on average for driving with a child who was not in a car seat or wearing a seatbelt.

Parents are still getting to grips with the latest laws around backless booster seats, one year after the rules were announced.

New research by, the driver savings site, reveals nine in 10 (88%) mums and dads are still perplexed by the law, which bans the production of backless booster seats for children below a certain weight(1). The law, which came into force in February 2017, extends the use of booster seats with backs to taller and heavier children. 

The research proves parents are still in the dark with one in four (26%) admitting they think the rules are unclear. So has created a child car seat calculator to guide mums and dads in right direction. The calculator helps baffled parents identify which car seat group their child belongs to, based on their age and weight.

Using the calculator will not only keep parents on the right side of the law, but can help them find the safest solution for their child. However, the research found some parents are, seemingly, so confused about which car seat is best they are giving up on using them all together. In fact, one in five (18%) parents with children under the age of 12 admit they never or rarely use a car seat for their child. And, even more worryingly, more than two in five (42%) parents who have been in an accident while their child was in the vehicle admit their kids were either not in a car seat or wearing a seatbelt at the time.

It is concerning parents are seemingly flouting the rules due to the complexity of the law. The current law states children must use the correct car seat for their height, age and weight until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever they reach first(3). Under the new rules, backless booster seats are deemed unsuitable for children shorter than 125cm and weighing less than 22kg – this is the average height(4) and weight(5) of children between six and eight years old. Whereas before backless booster seats were only unsuitable for children weighing less than 15kg.

Perplexingly, the new rules, introduced last February, will only apply to manufacturers bringing new products on the market. So parents who already own and use backless boosters, bought before this date, will still be permitted to use them for younger children. Seemingly, one rule for manufacturers and another rule for parents may send mixed messages about the safety of backless boosters. More information on the laws for driving with children under the age of 12 can be found in’s guide to choosing the right child car seat.

Crucially, parents or drivers caught carrying a child under the age of 14 while not buckled up correctly can face fines up to £500(6). issued a Freedom of Information request to 38 police forces, revealing 4,648 child seatbelt violations were recorded between 2016 and 2017(2). And, according to parents, one in 10 (10%) admit they have been pulled over by the police for driving while their child was not in car seat or wearing a seatbelt. Those who have been prosecuted for the offence say it has set them back £161 in fines on average.

Worryingly, many parents in the UK are putting themselves at risk of these hefty fines, as more than a quarter of parents (28%) have admitted to driving while their child was not in a suitable car seat. And almost a third (31%) claim they thought their child did not need one. Almost three in 10 (29%) also skipped out on using a car seat because they switched to another vehicle and didn’t transfer the seat over. While, shockingly, almost one in 10 (9%) blamed forgetfulness.

Reasons for not using a child car seat - by parents with children aged 1-12

I didn't think my child needed one 31% 
I switched to another car and didn't transfer the booster seat  29% 
I was making a short trip  25% 
It was an emergency 14%
There was no room in the car 11%
I forgot 9%
My child wouldn't let me put them in the seat 6%
I didn't know how to fit it 4%

There are some exceptions which allow children to travel without the use of a booster seat. These include if it is an unexpected emergency over a short distance – but only if the child is over the age of three and wearing a seatbelt. One in seven (14%) parents admit to finding themselves without a child car seat in this situation.

It goes without saying that driving while a child passenger is not in a car seat or wearing a seatbelt can have safety implications and put them at risk. In fact, more than a third (36%) of parents are concerned about the safety of their child in the car and would rather pay more money for a safer child car seat (35%). 

As car seats are crucial to a child’s safety while on the road, parents should be mindful of replacing them when needed. In fact, car seats should be replaced following an accident, even if the damage is not visible, as they can become weakened. Shockingly, almost two thirds (65%) of parents who have had an accident while their child was in the car did not replace the car seat after the incident. This is despite almost three quarters (73%) of parents knowing the protection a car seat offers might be compromised after impact.

There are many rules surrounding the use of car seats, all of which are in place to improve the protection of children on the road. But the complexity of the rules mean it is not surprising a third (33%) of parents are confused about conflicting messages regarding the safety of booster seats. It is clear there is some still way to go to educate parents on the value of having the right car seat for their child. 

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says: “The car seat regulations introduced in February last year (2017) are still causing confusion among parents, so we wanted to make it clearer by creating’s child car seat calculator.

“Crash impact films show what a difference having the correct car seat can make to your child’s protection. And while the rules might be confusing, they are in place to make sure children are as safe as possible. Mums and dads who do not comply with the law risk face fines of up to £500. Parents who are still baffled by the law should take a look at’s guide to choosing the right child car seat, or use the calculator to find one that is best suited for their age or weight.”


Notes to editors

Unless otherwise stated all statistics were obtained from a survey to 1,500 UK motorists with children aged between 1 and 12. The survey ran between 23rd January and 30th January 2018.

2. issued Freedom of Information request to UK police forces, for records of the following offences in 2015, 2016 and 2017:
a. Carry child in rear-facing restraint in front seat w/o deactivated airbag 
b. Child front - Failing to wear seat belt 
c. Child rear - Failing to wear seat belt 
d. Drive motor vehicle with child U. 3 yrs not wearing rear seat belt 
e. Rear seat belt not fitted - child under 12 year and not 150 cm tall
f. Adult front passenger - Failing to wear seat belt 
g. Adult rear passenger - Failing to wear seat belt 
h. Driver - Failing to wear seat belt
*Child car seat offences include responses from police forces in England and Wales as Scotland was not able to breakdown by adult/child.

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